Food History

A Place at the Table Is Now Open at MOHAI

Fun fact: The Canlis family, the Athenian Inn, and the gyros trend are all of Greek export.

By Caroline Ferguson February 10, 2015

Seattle's Lotus Cafe ca. 1950. Photo courtesy of MOHAI.

History nerds–slash–gastronomes: now's your moment. From now through May 31, the Museum of History and Industry in South Lake Union will be featuring A Place at the Table, an exhibit exploring the Puget Sound region's history of Greek-American food, culture, and entrepreneurship.

Though Seattle's Greek community is small in number, it's had an enormous influence on Seattle's restaurant scene for over 100 years. Needing a source of income and a place to gather and support each other, Seattle’s Greek immigrant community opened hundreds of restaurants during the 20th century. In the postwar era these were mostly assimilative diners with the same meat-and-potatoes fare you’d find anywhere else. But thankfully, by the later half of the century Seattle eaters had developed more adventurous palates. Many Greek restaurateurs started serving more authentic Greek food, tapping into the city's abundance of fresh fish and local vegetables, both of which lent themselves nicely to Mediterranean cooking.

Though there are artifacts aplenty, the exhibit is primarily a photographic who’s-who of Seattle’s Greek-American restaurant owners, including the Pappadakis brothers, who opened The Athenian Inn in Pike Place Market in 1909; Thomas Soukakos of the Capitol Hill brunch stalwart Vios; and none other than Peter freakin’ Canlis.

The exhibit was created in collaboration with the Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State, a “museum without walls” that archives oral histories and other documents from the state’s Greek community. It will be on display through May 31. Tickets to MOHAI are available online, and admission is free on the first Thursday of every month.

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